(May 3, 2019) Despite some trepidation, Ocean City councilmembers on Tuesday approved a $55,000 Tourism Advisory Board funding request presented by Tourism and Marketing Director Donna Abbott.

The request, unanimously approved by the tourism board last month, included four items:

• $3,000 for a Wheelchair Lacrosse Tournament in conjunction with the 2019 LAX Classic, Aug. 8-11 at Northside Park.

• Up to $20,000 for flooring rental for Premiere 1 Events to hold a basketball tournament at the Ocean City Convention Center, June 1-2.

• $8,000 for the Kings of the Mat Wrestling Tournament, Nov. 2-3 at the Ocean City Convention Center.

• $24,000 to OC Jams to support the 2019 OC BikeFest at the Ocean City inlet

According to the meeting packet, OC Jams originally requested $58,000, because a state of emergency declaration last year led to the cancelation of events, and organizers decided to offer 2,500 displaced ticket holders the chance to roll over the value of those tickets for this year’s BikeFest. Because of that, last year’s event resulted in a deficit for OC Jams.

Tourism Board Chairman Steve Pastusak said average ticket prices were $65. The BikeFest request was apparently originally $58,000.

Pastusak and Abbott

Tourism Advisory Board Chairman Steve Pastusak and Tourism Director Donna Abbott discuss a recent committee funding proposal during a City Council work session on Tuesday. 

Councilman Dennis Dare said years ago Kool and the Gang were scheduled to play Springfest, but a storm came through and “practically [tore] the tents down” and canceled the event. He said it hurt to hand over a $24,000 check, but the band ended up coming back later and the lesson learned was, “you buy insurance.”

“Maybe that’s the lesson that the BikeFest needs to learn,” he said.

Councilman John Gehrig said the storm last year hurt tourism throughout the city, but partially reimbursing BikeFest organizers was “just in the spirit of doing business.” He broadly praised the event for being well run and comparatively non-disruptive.

“It’s a business relationship. We’re partners here [and] it’s a key component to what we do in Ocean City,” he said.

Councilwoman Mary Knight said BikeFest patrons each year spend a good deal of money in area restaurants and often tip well.

“They’re very, very generous,” she said. “They do a lot of good. A lot of the people belong to other organizations [and do] a lot of charitable work.

“I’m one of those people, I put on my leathers and I go down there [to the event] – and I don’t even ride,” Knight added. “I just wanted to mention how beneficial they are, on so many levels.”

Councilman Mark Paddack said the events are critical in generating money for small businesses. He said in ranking the various motor events “the nice one is the biker event.”

He agreed with Dare that organizers need to get insurance, but added he was open to reimbursing them this year “to help our partner kind of get out of a hole.”

Pastusak said the request was a one-time thing.

“We felt like this was something that they didn’t see coming,” he said, adding the issue of insurance was brought up during the recent tourism board meeting.

“We requested that they needed to look into getting insurance for their event, and they took our advice,” Pastusak said.

Abbott later added the issue of insurance could be included in a memorandum of understanding for BikeFest.

Councilmembers voted 6-1 to approve the tourism advisory board proposals, with only Dare opposed.

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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